Changing the rules - Howes petition to change two zoning laws to allow events at their farm

GILFORD — In a effort to allow farm-to-table events, wedding and other functions on his Gunstock Hill Road farm, the family at the center of the debate has filed two petitioned zoning warrant articles that, if either or both passes, they believe will give them that right.

In the first attempt, Andrew and Martina Howe and the other signatories of the warrant would rewrite Article 3 of the Gilford Town Ordinance to include cultivation, conservation and tillage of the soil; the storage, use and spreading of fertilizer; the use of and application of agricultural chemicals; the raising and sale of livestock and poultry; farm stands; farmer's markets, orchards, plant or tree nurseries, dairy farming and maple syrup production; and subsistence farming and farming for personal and family use.

This article would also add "Agritourism uses as set forth or referred to in RSA 21:34-a (vi) and other commercial activities on a farm that are intended or designed to attract visitors to a working farm; and shall include the terms 'farm' 'agriculture,' and 'farming.'"

A second portion of the warrant article asks voters to add the definition of agritourism as defined in state law RSA 21:34-a (vi) and specifically include farm-to-table events, corn mazes, agricultural-based educational activities; fairs; on-farm weddings and similar events, hay rides, petting zoos, nature walks, bird watching, historical agricultural exhibits and museums, as well as other commercial activities on a working farm that are intended or designed to attract visitors to that working farm.

The warrant article would also amend town ordinance 4.7.1(a) to read that agritourism and agriculture as defined in Article 3 uses shall be permitted on any property where the primary use is for agriculture. Home farming is allowed in all zones.

The Howes have also submitted a petitioned warrant article that would make their four contiguous properties part of the resort commercial zone as opposed to a single-family residence zone.

At least one of the Howes' properties lies along Old Lakeshore Road, and the north side is zoned resort commercial. To the west of the resort commercial zone lies the commercial zone that contains all of the various retail entities on Lakeshore Road.
The total amount of acreage the Howes wish to see rezoned is 252.12 acres of Howe family property.

The immediate goal is to allow the Howes the ability to host farm-to-table events, hay rides and weddings and other similar activities on all four of their pieces of property on Gunstock Hill Road.

A "yes" vote on the first article means support for a redefinition of agriculture to include agritourism as well as a definition of agritourism consistent with state law.

A "yes" vote on rezoning the four Howe family properties means that the single-family restrictions on agritourism, as explained last week by a majority of the Planning Board, would no longer apply to their property.

The reason for the petitioned warrant articles is that one of the abutters filed a complaint about the wedding and farm-to-table activities, saying the noise from them is disturbing and has the potential to drop her property value by about $200,000. She is not alone in her sentiments but is the lead objector to the activities. Monique Twomey has said she has no objection to the activities as long as they are held at the Beans and Greens Farm stand operated by the Howes.

Last week the Planning Board said that agritourism use is inappropriate in this instance because the area is zoned single-family residential, despite the fact that New Hampshire is a right-to-farm state and that agriculture, as it is presently defined, is permitted in all zones in Gilford.

The Howes have appealed the Planning Board ruling to the ZBA, which should meet next on Dec. 22 in the Town Offices.

Correction: The petitioned warrant article that, if passed, would re-zone property owned by the Howe family on Gunstock Hill Road was generated by the Gilford Planning Board. It was incorrectly reported in an article that ran on page 1 on the Dec. 18 edition of the Laconia Daily Sun.

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Expanded dental professional program coming to NHTI

CONCORD — NHTI, Concord's Community College and the New Hampshire Dental Society have announced that the college is accepting students into the Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary certificate program. The program begins in May 2016.

The New Hampshire Dental Society, the American Dental Association and Northeast Delta Dental provide financial support to help make this program possible. NHTI has developed the curriculum and completed the faculty and staff training required to begin offering the courses in May.

"This program provides an opportunity for NHTI and the dental community to provide greater access to dental care by New Hampshire citizens," said NHTI President Susan Dunton.

"The EFDA certificate program is in harmony with Northeast Delta Dental's mission to improve the access to, and the quality of, oral healthcare and education in the communities we serve. This program will allow New Hampshire's oral health professionals to expand their skill set and we are proud to partner with the NH Dental Society, NH Dental Society Foundation, and NHTI to bring this important program to life," said president and CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, Tom Raffio.

Dental assistants who have completed this program are referred to as "EFDAs," which designates that they have completed additional training and certifications, allowing them to place restorations under the supervision of a licensed dentist. Their additional training enhances the dental team, improving patient flow and office efficiency at dental offices throughout the state. EFDAs are currently working successfully in more than two dozen states.

"Once they complete their training, EFDAs can perform a number of restorative and preventive procedures. Operating under the supervision of a dentist and as part of the dental team, EFDAs' impact will be statewide," said NHDS President Peter Welnak, DDS.

NHTI plans to launch the certificate program in May, with applications being accepted immediately. The curriculum includes 50 hours of classroom training and 100 hours of pre-clinical training. Once training is complete, the student can register with the Board of Examiners to begin working as an EFDA.

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County eyes paying inmates $3 a day for work

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have agreed to a trial program in which inmates at the Belknap County Jail who work at county facilities will be paid $3 a day.
Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray told commissioners that he currently has 12 inmates available to work and estimated that it would cost $15,427 a year to pay inmates for their work.
The inmates would work in the Belknap County Home kitchen washing dishes, at the county home and corrections department laundries, or as part of the grounds crew and farm crew at the county home. There would also be some off-site work at locations like the Belknap County Fairgrounds or in communities which ask for prison labor for specific projects.
Gray said that those eligible to work will be minimum risk, nonviolent offenders and that waivers might be sought in order to allow those awaiting trial to participate.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he thinks getting more inmates working is a good idea.
“There are too many people sitting around watching television,” he said.
He also wondered if it is possible for a judge to include a work requirement when an offender is sentenced.
Gray said that he would assign eligible inmates to work details and that their participation would be mandatory.
The action came in response to concerns raised at the Dec. 2 meeting of the commission at which Carolee Sliker, dietary manager at the nursing home, said that she was concerned inmate labor and a possible shortage when the new community corrections center opens.
DeVoy had suggested $5 a day for inmates who work, and after some discussion a compromise figure of $3 day was agreed to.
County Administrator Debra Shackett wondered what budget line should be used to cover the payments and commissioners asked her to get back to them with a recommendation.
• The commission also voted to approve the purchase of a 12-person, two-wheelchair bus to be used for transporting residents of the nursing home to various functions and activities. The bus will be purchased from Patsy’s Bus Sales of Concord with a total cost of $62,137 less a $3,500 trade-in for a bus currently used by the Corrections Department.
DeVoy asked Gray why the department is giving up the bus and was told that the bus has only been used once by the department in the last six months and that he only has one employee with a commercial driver’s license. He said he could work out an arrangement with the county home to use the bus if his department needs it.
• Commissioners also approved request for five line-item budget transfers which must now be brought to the Belknap County Convention’s Executive Committee for approval. The largest request was for $61,465 to cover Medicare Part B expenses at the Belknap County Nursing Home, which have changed due to shifting medical costs based on a resident census.

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